You eye Austria tantalisingly, considering whether the ship could make it to the landlocked country. Deciding it wouldn’t be any stranger than having ghost pirates for a crew, you go for it, marking a red line across the map, stretching from the toy ship to the western tip of the country.

A creak emanates from the ship as it prepares for the journey and a near-solid fog surrounds the ship almost instantly. Strange images are continually sown and ripped apart in the fog, describing scenes you are sure belong in stories, not real life. Not even a real life with a literal skeleton crew.

You see an ape with a bat in place of a regular head, a beanie stretched between its unusually large ears, perched atop an unidentifiable, bloodied figure in white. As that fades, a herd of horses takes its place, each one slightly left of normal. You see one with eyes belonging on a snake; one seemingly made of water; pegasi flying overhead; and even a horse lit on fire, grazing on apparently fire-retardant grass.

Hundreds of unnerving images later, the ship docks in Bregenz, materialising on the banks of what you assume is Lake Constance. Instead, as you climb ashore, you see a bear coming towards you, comfortably walking on its hind legs. With each step, it splits to form a smaller bear, rushing off to attend to other people, comfortably mulling around, nowhere near as scared and confused as you. When it finally reaches you, it’s about half as tall as it was before.

“Welcome to the Marketplace! What are you in the market for?” it asks cheerfully, right before you promptly faint.


For more from Ajinkya Goyal, check out Innocently Macabre, a weekly interplay of worldly merriment and twisted secrets.

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